Redfish: What's cookin' in Beaufort
By Pat Branning | Our Beaufort coast with its miles of rivers, creeks and estuaries is home to hundreds of species of fish, birds, and animals. The Redfish are the rulers of these waters. During high tides, the Reds take shelter amongst the spartina grass, creating hiding places from predators such as eagles, ospreys and dolphins. As the tide begins to recede, the Reds are forced out from their spartina shelter into open areas usually surrounded by mud bars and oyster mounds.
Shortly after the warming begins every spring, the larger Bull Reds start moving back into the estuaries from offshore waters. So spring is a great time of year to catch them and cook ‘em up for supper!
Even if you don’t like to fish for your dinner, incredible sight fishing adventures await you thanks to the extreme high tides which flood our marshes. Depending on the moon phase, full or new, the gravitational pull causes these flood tides. Each month we have six to eight such tides.
As the water starts to flood the marsh, the Reds will move onto the spartina covered flats and feed on fiddler crabs. As these fish feed on the crabs, they will appear to be standing on their heads. Depending on the depth of the water, the fish may be feeding in shallow enough water to completely expose their backs and tails.
Just the sheer thought of casting a fly rod into a milling school of redfish is enough to raise the hair on the back of the neck of most anglers! The shallower the water, the more thrilling the fight.
For the finest redfish recipes ever, I turned to master chef Paul Prudhomme. I agree with all the fans who rave about his recipes – they are fantastic!
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
8 skinless, boneless fillets of redfish (about 1/4 pound each)
1/2 cup melted butter
Combine the salt, red pepper, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, basil, oregano and paprika in a small bowl. Dip the fish pieces on both sides in butter. Sprinkle on both sides with the seasoned mixture.
Heat a black iron skillet over high heat about five minutes or longer until it is beyond the smoking stage and starts to lighten in color on the bottom. Add two or more fish pieces and pour about a teaspoon of butter on top of each piece. Do not crowd them in the pan. The butter may flame up. Cook over high heat about a minute and a half. Turn the fish and pour another teaspoon of butter over each piece. Cook about a minute and a half. Serve immediately. Continue until all fillets are cooked. Yields 4 servings.
Lowcountry Grilled Redfish
This recipe is one I learned from a boat captain and friend who loved to marinate fish in a good Italian dressing. I use this recipe for all types of fish and it always turns out delicious!
4 skinless, boneless fillets of redfish
1 cup good Italian dressing
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Cut slits in redfish filets and sprinkle with lemon pepper and kosher salt. Place in a shallow dish and cover with Italian dressing, the minced garlic and chopped parsley. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. Place redfish on foil sprayed with non-stick spray. Cover the grill and cook over medium heat until hot. Continue cooking until the meat is flakey. A large redfish will require about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese over the top, cover and cook until cheese begins to melt. Serve with a mixed green salad and crusty garlic bread.
Pat Branning is the local author of the best selling book, “Shrimp, Collards and Grits,” recipes, stories, art and history from the creeks and gardens of the Lowcountry. For more information, or to purchase her book, visit https://www.shrimpcollardsgrits.com